There are as many answers to how long a podcast should be as there are podcasters. The truth is there’s no set answer. For every person that tells you that you should keep things short, there’s someone else who will be more than happy to tell you that Joe Rogan or John Gruber can go for 3 hours and are wildly successful.
I came across this question once on Quora. For the uninitiated, Quora is a platform where users can ask questions and receive answers from people with varying degrees of knowledge. No sooner had I shared my opinion — and I always emphasize that this is my opinion — another podcaster that I lump in with the ‘gurus’ took me to task. In fact, he gave me the contrary opinion I mention at the beginning of this article.
The simple fact is that neither of us is right. The problem is that neither of us is wrong, and someone else will come along and disagree with both of us.
So, in an area where there is no right or wrong answer, I’m going to share my take on it.
My smarmy pod-guru friend is right. Many people have podcasts that last well over an hour. However, those people are known outside the world of podcasting and had an existing audience they brought with them. Those listeners have already bought in, and they’re going to listen to that show no matter how long it is. You and I? We might not be as fortunate. For that reason, I think starting with a show length a bit more reasonable is a good idea.
There is an opinion that you should use the average commute time as a reference point. According to the US Census Bureau, the average time as of the last report for 2017 is 26.9 minutes. I can think of several popular podcasts I listen to right off the top of my head that is less time than that, and they all have one thing in common: They’re all of a news headlines variety and they run Monday through Friday.
I’ll grant you that this is anecdotal, but in my experience, most of the podcasts that I run across — and indeed most of the ones I subscribe to, are less than an hour. In fact, I think there’s a ‘podcast sweet spot’ of around between 35–45 minutes that most podcasts fall into. While there’s no right answer, I can make the argument that there does appear to be a rule of thumb.
Having said that, please don’t fall into the trap of cutting a good show down, or stretch a bad show up to meet that time. Your podcast should take as long as it takes. If you have the material to take a show long, do it. If you think it’s too long, then make it a multi-part episode over a few weeks. Or, make some of it ‘bonus content’ for Patreons, If. If you only have enough material for a 10 minute or less podcast, do that.
In the final analysis, it’s not about the time, but how you fill it.